Treating all students equally is unfair and unwise, argues science-fiction writer Jerry Pournelle on Chaos Manor. Schools should educate bright students for higher education and “teach the others stuff that will be useful to them in their actual future lives.”
Pournelle recalls his early days in the aerospace industry.
. . . Boeing could in those days count on the Seattle public school system to deliver workers capable of learning to do useful work. There would be failures, but in general, high school graduates could be taken into the work force and taught skills. They didn’t have to learn to read or to do elementary math, they understood the concept of measurement, and they could generally be relied on to have something approaching satisfactory work habits.
Commenter Margaret Ball agrees that a college-prep education means “years of pure hell” for some children. One daughter, who suffered in school, is now a sweet, energetic, “amazingly good” employee at a nursery school. The other was a high achiever whose school “wasted hours of her life making her mess around with construction paper and shoeboxes making dioramas to illustrate scenes in a book instead of just letting her write a book report.”
Pournelle’s followup, responding to Bill Gates’ call for education to serve as an equalizer, drew this comment:
I was born in 1969 in Flint, Michigan and got to see this first hand in a hyper-intense environment. In the beginning of my educational career it was all about options: I could go on to become a welder or an electrician if I wanted to. GM/Flint collapsed in 1980. By the time I had graduated high school (1987) the guidance counselors preached endlessly about the fact that manufacturing jobs were gone, and vocational schools were closing quickly to suit. Everything was about retraining factory workers to become computer programmers, because no-one should be flipping burgers in their 30?s, right? Completely missing the fact that we still need electricians and welders.
. . . My son — now 18 — will . . . take some community-college level courses to fill out his vocational training but that’s it. He’s a bright boy, but doesn’t have the work ethic or studious nature to learn for learning’s sake. He doesn’t want to. College-prep high school was awful for him (B- averages, and he hated it), but there were few alternatives in a district where 97% of the HS graduates were expected to go on to college. My son would have been the brightest electrician or best mechanic you could hire, but alas, it’ll take him years to get the experiences he should have gotten in school while learning Advanced English Composition.
“Injustice consists of treating equals unequally and treating unequals equally,” Pournelle writes. “Our school system is designed to be unjust.”
Pournelle’s wife is a reading teacher.